I have heard that there was a time when movies took a lot of work to make. They used to go through countless drafts and rewrites before anybody picked up a camera or called an actor’s agent, or so I’m told. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure Altitude was made over a three-day weekend, based on a script somebody doodled on the back of a napkin (this “script” being a picture of an octopus clinging to an airplane’s wing). The premise of Altitude is actually pretty good, in my opinion, but there’s a major difference between premise and execution.
“After a mysterious malfunction sends their small plane climbing out of control, a rookie pilot and her four teenage friends find themselves trapped in a deadly showdown with a supernatural force.”
See? Sky-monsters are interesting and unique, and the few shots we actually get of the floating octopus thing are very nice. The CGI is capable and the monster itself is that appropriate combination of familiar and entirely alien that makes a good monster work. Unfortunately, to GET to the monster you have to sit through an hour of college students bickering on a small airplane. It’s sort of like that time you took a road trip with your friend and all those people from his dorm he hangs out with, the ones you don’t really know or like but kind of have to tolerate so you don’t look like a jerk. And one of those friends is a tentacled brain/mouth the size of an aircraft carrier, and he lives in the sky.
Yeah. Exactly like that.
Our story begins with the prerequisite exposition, in this case a flashback where a female pilot tries to make small talk with her passengers, a family of three, before a sudden accident causes the plane to crash. We then cut, rather inelegantly, to that woman’s daughter, who has now also become a pilot for some reason. She’s going with some friends of hers to a concert, and for some reason she’s decided to fly them there rather than drive, as would be sensible. I’d outline the other characters for you, but none of them are really all that consequential aside from the main character’s boyfriend, who functions as kind of a living MacGuffin for the last half of the film.
I personally enjoyed the film for its badness, and I do think it’s worth watching if you’re an aficionado of terrible cinema (easily the most enjoyable form of masochism), so I’m not going to spoil the ending, which I liked. The climactic thirty minutes before the credits roll feature a major twist which really does almost nothing to change the story, but then out of nowhere comes a SECOND twist which actually sort of does change things in a ridiculous and entirely silly way. The film begins to fold in upon itself in a bizarre Moebius strip, or perhaps a singularity of suck.
I hate, truly despise, ruining the movie experience by giving away the majorly important parts before people have a chance to see the movie, so all I can really say is this: the first hour or so is a pretty big waste of time. Altitude has a great premise with very poor execution. The dialogue is pretty bad, with the kind of allegedly serious or dramatic lines that made me laugh more than anything else, and the cast is pretty much the same gaggle of interchangeable, annoying twentysomethings that have been starring in horror movies since the early 90s. I’m not really sure if we were meant to root for any of the people in the film, or just be excited for their grisly, airborne deaths. The latter was the end result, though. IF, however, you enjoy watching bad movies and can handle the ‘slow burn’ more traditional to older horror movies, you will be rewarded with a ridiculous thirty minutes where all you can think is “This is incredibly silly”. My recommendation: watch it with friends, with the advance knowledge that you will not be watching a good or well-made movie, despite the decent CGI, and possibly turn it into a drinking game by taking a shot (or whatever cool people who drink do) every time somebody says a variation of “What does THAT mean?”
Unlike the illustrious Captain Midnight, I don’t tend to rate things on a scale of so many Vincent Prices out of five, but I can say that if four stars is “good”, than Altitude gets a two-star rating: it is an entirely average movie with a half-hour at the end that makes it so amusingly bad that it pops up to three stars. It’s worth seeing if you have fond memories of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and want to get a couple friends or robots together to recreate the show’s movie-mocking atmosphere in your own home.
Hey, atmosphere. I almost went through this whole review without making any flight or air puns. …crap, what a wasted opportunity.